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ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Intelligence Agencies have proposed to the provincial government to stress upon the federal government to address excessive billing issue on emergent basis as some political parties including PTI could further strengthen protests.

In a letter to Punjab Government, Provincial Intelligence Centre (PIC) explained that apropos reports of public protests in various districts of the Punjab against astronomical electricity bills, prolonged hours of load shedding and unannounced power outages, the field staff of this Agency carried out a survey of the existing situation in rural and urban areas of various districts of the Punjab and have reported that the general people are feeling agitated and perturbed over soaring electricity bills and heavy taxes and are holding protests on daily basis in this regard which are now assuming the shape of a violent movement.

According to PIC, reportedly, the situation has reached the pitch that people, especially the traders and the shopkeepers, have started burning their electricity bills in public rallies/ demonstrations besides making announcements on loudspeakers of the Masajid urging the people not to pay the electricity bills.

As per some social media posts, people have committed suicides in Multan, Gujranwala and Islamabad (Khanna Pul) after failing to pay electricity bill.

JI calls for nationwide strike on Sept 2 over inflated electricity bills

As per reports from the field outfits this Agency, during the last 26 days (i.e., from August 1, 2023 to August 26, 2023, a total number of 206 incidents in the form of protest demonstrations against over-billing, high taxes on power consumption, and prolonged hours of load shedding have taken place in the Punjab province.

However, during the corresponding period in the month of July 2023, as many as 40 incidents of protests against excessive billing of electricity and power outages were reported.

Region-wise comparative situation shows that there been an increase of at least 80% in number of protests in the month of August 2023 as compared to the month of July 2023 and with the passage of each day the protests are gaining momentum.

Perusal of the data indicates that in Aug 2023, so far, the maximum number of protests, that is, 35 have been reported in Rawalpindi Region followed by 33 in Gujranwala, 32 in Multan while 24 in Faisalabad Regions. In Lahore, there have been 41 protests against the issue and the sphere of these protests is increasing on daily basis.

As per field staff of PIC, the composition of the crowd in these protests indicates that the ordinary citizens and labour class is holding more protests due to over-billing by WAPDA, which is quite serious from law and order point of view. The significant element of these protests is this that the regions where protests are being held on daily basis are considered to be the industrial hubs of major cities.

Apart from inflated electricity bills, increase in the prices of essential commodities and public utilities are adversely affecting the economic lot of the people. Inflationary trends in the economy have made it impossible for the common man to make both ends meet.

The increase in the prices of Atta, sugar, Ghee, vegetables, meat, poultry and other items of daily use is going to have its effect on the prices of other commodities. This will further add to the miseries of the common man, particularly the fixed income group.

The deteriorating economic situation is likely to cause further difficulties for both federal and the provincial Governments in days to come.

Therefore, immediate attention is required to check the overall worsening economic situation. Measures must be taken to arrest the high rate of inflation at the same time ensuring that the traders do not resort to arbitrary increase in the prices. Shortage of commodities of daily use should not be allowed to occur.

The PIC is of the view that a careful analysis of trend of agitation against over billing of electricity reveals that the issue coupled with other issues, such as un-employment, price hike, non-attendance of public issues, poverty and political polarization has made the people so frustrated that protests against excessive bills and heavy taxes may culminate into a major campaign against the government, which is likely to get out of control in days to come. Therefore, all out efforts should be made to resolve the issue of electricity tariff on war footing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Arif Sep 02, 2023 09:20am
Powers that be have a habit of pushing people to the wall . This time they are against the wall and are getting crushed further without any hope of improvement , a very dangerous situation.
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KU Sep 02, 2023 10:39am
The sentiments against the government have already flared and with the hike in fuel prices, people are all set to strike back at the rulers. The collective incompetence is leading to madness among the rulers, and this time they will pay for their mistakes.
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Abdullah Sep 02, 2023 10:52am
Most of them dont pay bills and still come to protests and are robbing electricity on daily bases. Its time they pay or dont give them electricity.
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Arif Sep 02, 2023 01:11pm
@Abdullah, I hope you feel the same about all those who don’t pay taxes also . Instead of going after those who steal taxes or simply don’t pay , our state just give them a free pass as ‘Non Filer’ .
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Anonymous Sep 02, 2023 03:04pm
One thing is confirmed, PDM played smartly and moved abroad immediately after dissolution of assembly. They fetched two benefits. 1. Closure of all legal cases against them 2. Keep them out against public chaos and let the handlers handle the situation.
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Kashif ALI Sep 02, 2023 06:20pm
I think the inflated electricity bills is a "Non Issue". The protestors are those people who never afforded electricity and utilities. They barely afforded two morsel to feed themselves but then burdened themselves with expensive mobiles and loader rickshaws. They did not deserve such facilities of life. Traders are all but die-hard dishonest, thieves and corrupt people at the same level as we abuse the politicians. I really wish that traders should go on 100-days shutter down strike so that they could experience what it feels like to starve. Traders are equally the scumbags. On the other hand, the government needs to cuts its expenses drastically. The free electricity unit should be withdrawn from the judiciary and bureaucracy. However, people working in Power sector deserve monetization of the units as it is a corporate benefit. Population boom is another bomb. The illiterate "ganwar jaahil" are baby boomers. They reproduce just like wild roots. This needs to be culled.
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Lubna Sep 02, 2023 06:23pm
For God Sake, this is a message to establishment of Pakistan that we are dying of hunger and we cannot take his game further. For Allah sake, please end this drama now and forever. The world has moved ahead and we are playing games here through paid parties like PMLN. For God sake, do something and save this country.
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DocAsad Sep 02, 2023 07:10pm
Our country is populated mainly by zinda laashen.... Don't worry.. Nothing will happen to the corrupts :)
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Kashif ALI Sep 02, 2023 07:40pm
@Lubna, Don't be a PTI puppet. Be a Pakistani first.
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Muhammad Iftikhar Sep 02, 2023 10:10pm
Public anger could make Pak the next Srilanka. Situation of inflaton is now out of control.
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